He wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday (Jan 28) that the feedback the Government has received regarding the 33-hectare forest area will be taken into consideration.
Consultations with the community will also be carried out.
Dover Forest, a 33-hectare site within Ulu Pandan, was zoned for residential development under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Master Plan 2014.
Mr Lee announced in December that among the Built-to-Order flats to be launched this year, some would be located at Ulu Pandan Estate in Queenstown.
But on Jan 15, the Nature Society of Singapore’s Conservation Committee, called for Dover Forest to be set apart as a nature park, given the biodiversity in the area, which has 158 animals, among which some are critically endangered ones, and 120 plant species.
There is also a petition to save the forest on change.org with around 38,000 signatories.
Politicians such as MP Christopher de Souza (PAP-Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), Dennis Tan (WP – Hougang SMC), Progress Singapore Party Secretary-General Dr Tan Cheng Bock, the Workers’ Party’s Nicole Seah, and Ravi Philemon of Red Dot United have also called for the preservation of Dover Forest.
Mr Lee wrote in his post that he had visited Ulu Pandan on Jan 27 with a group that included Shawn Lum, the President of Nature Society (Singapore) and Karl Png, co-founder of Singapore Youth Voices for Biodiversity (SYVB).
“There used to be rubber plantations, fruit orchards and kampongs at the site, and it is now overgrown with mostly Albizia trees,” he noted.
After the Housing & Development Board carried out an environmental baseline study to provide guidance for the future development of the area, the report was published and feedback was sought from the public.
“We will study all the feedback received in detail, as we consider possible plans for the site,” wrote the Minister.
He explained that in the past, areas around the country had to be cleared as Singapore expanded, although some sites were kept for future generations.
“Today, it is our turn to carry this responsibility of stewardship. This requires us to meet the needs of Singaporeans today, whilst in turn also safeguarding land for future generations. We need to provide for current and future need for homes, jobs and other amenities, and at the same time secure green and blue spaces for Singaporeans,” he added.
But for areas marked for development that are near significant biodiversity, Mr Lee said the Government proceeds “with care.”
Extensive environmental studies are carried out, and he wrote that the engagement of stakeholders is sought “to take in feedback and strengthen the rigour of the studies.”
The Minister added, “As far as possible, we seek to preserve and integrate natural elements within developments, to facilitate ecological connectivity.”
A balance must be struck between preserving nature and providing for the needs of Singaporeans.
Mr Lee wrote, “These are both important needs, and we should not rush into a decision. The feedback we have received – from local residents, green groups, potential homeowners and the broader public – will be taken in to inform our planning process. We will consult the community, and share more detailed plans and ideas when ready.”
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